Endangered Language Alliance
Linguists have consistently agreed that Gurung is closely related to Tamang, Thakali, and Manange~Gyasumdo (alternately called Manangke or Manangba by some authors), forming a subgroup referred to as Tamang-Gurung-Thakali-Manange, or TGTM (Glover 1971, Hildebrandt 2004 & 2007a, Mazaudon 1988 & 2005), or often as Tamangish (van Driem 2011) and sometimes as West Bodish (Bradley 1997). Other smaller varieties of this subgroup include Nar Phu (Noonan 2003) and Chantyal (Noonan 2003). The Ghale and Kaike languages have recently been found to differ from Tamangish proper in historically important ways, and thus the name “Tamangic,” originally used synonymously for TGTM/Tamangish, has taken on the broader sense of Kaike-Ghale-Tamangish (van Driem 2011).
For Gurung, linguists have identified 14 distinct dialect groups that cluster into two larger groups: East Gurung and West Gurung (Glover & Landon 1975). As Glover and Landon (1975) point out, the distribution of these 14 dialects and their similarity to each other is largely shaped by the geography of the region in which they are spoken – namely the steep slopes and river valleys of the Himalayas – which limits contact between some communities while facilitating contact between others. While the dialects comprising West Gurung generally tend to resemble each other, the dialects of East Gurung show more variation, and collectively East Gurung and West Gurung are not generally mutually intelligible (Glover & Landon 1975, Lewis, Simons & Fennig 2015).
Glover’s paper was the first of several to focuses on Gurung’s contrastive tone system and its relationship with register (namely contrastive breathy phonation) and word-initial obstruent voicing. These three aspects of Gurung phonology – tone, register, and obstruent voicing – have been the focus of much of the existing literature.
Over several years, a number of students and researchers have worked on the project: Peter Graif, Perry Wong, Chris Geissler, Robert Knight, Danielle Ronkos, Zach Wellstood, and Lingzi Zhuang. Current team members are completing a sketch grammar based on spoken texts of a variety of genres, and have produced a number of topical studies, including one on initial devoicing and low tone register, and another one on Gurung’s multifunctional transitivity-altering morphology. A number of recorded dialogues and interviews with speakers of different dialects have also been collected.